whistlestop caboose

The view from the back.

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www.zidao.com Apprentice harmonizer, for sheer fun. Journeywoman writer, for work and pleasure. Starting point was Iowa, current stopping point on this journey is Switzerland, with frequent pauses around the world to watch and listen to the crowd, and occasionally make comments.

Tulips 2006 for Gran ellengwallace's Tulips 2006 for Gran photoset

Monday, February 26, 2007

a little break and back to the view from the back

I didn't plan to take a week-long break from here. I've been working for a while on moving my news site, GenevaLunch, from one-woman show to community service news and in the past two weeks we hit the crunch of finalizing the business plan. Last week turned out to be one of those times when there is barely time to sleep - although somehow I always manage to eat.

The business plan is now gone, in the hands of various business, legal and journalism people who will give GL's small team some feedback. For a couple days after it left I was in a daze, but work goes on and the site still needs to be fed.

By Sunday, life was nearly back to just plain busy normal, so there was time to look at the world again, make a few observations from the back of the train.

We had a little snow, then a little more. It was not weather for lunch on the balcony. But from the balcony I could wonder why we humans like to create several stages between our indoor worlds and the outdoor ones. There is a house, then a strip of veranda, then a strip of bush, and finally, the great outdoors where snow lands.

I ventured out, over damp lawn to check on the state of the pond. It is fed by a stream so doesn't freeze but I sweep it out now and again because dirt and leaves and other remnants of nature like to gently sink there. I didn't have the heart to unsettle the water, so nicely mirroring a bulky white cloud above, which had replaced the snow clouds temporarily, and a sturdy autumn flower now starched by winter.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Snowdrops are out: could spring really be here?

The middle of February is definitely too early for spring flowers in the Alps. Normally, we would expect to be under a couple feet of snow, but not this year. Monday we had a few inches of snow and by Sunday I was out in the garden in a tee-shirt, with only a few patches of snow left. The first snowdrop bloomed yesterday but I was only able to catch one quick photo before dusk fell. Today, after a night out in the cold, it was limp, but this neighbor appeared.

More worrisome are all the tulip tips happily climbing up out of the ground, thinking spring is here. I fear a blast of cold frost will do them all in. Fingers crossed this remains a gentle winter year at 1100 meters, with cold and snow at 1800 meters to make skiers happy.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Undercover ice ferret

Originally uploaded by ellengwallace.

I wonder if you'll see what one of the visitors to my flickr page promptly saw - and I hadn't meant the "undercover" title to be a double entendre! I really felt like I was spying on a private world here.


Originally uploaded by ellengwallace.

A sure sign of global warming: in mid-February, high in the Swiss Alps and with snow on the ground, I have a fly on the OUTSIDE of my window, not even in the sun! Have a nice look at him, large in flickr, for he is a brave soul, or it's even warmer than we think.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lausanne TGV and where to next

Lausanne TGV and where to next
Originally uploaded by ellengwallace.

Experimenting to see if a change I made on flickr puts photos inside this layout; fingers crossed.

Here's what you're looking at:
Nose to nose, thinking about leaving, two TGV (fast train) engines debate: Vienna, says the one on the left. No, Paris, says the one on the right, who knows that the tracks are good in that direction.

Swiss chocolates: be our valentines!

Valentine's Day always seems to me like a good day to live in Switzerland. As if we needed an excuse, we get a little more chocolate than usual, to offer. And if we're lucky, someone offers us some chocolate.

So here is a Swiss chocolate valentine from Blondel Chocolat in Lausanne, to all of you from all of us in Switzerland. The day you can taste and smell it we will know the Internet has really come of age. Meanwhile, happy dreams (it is snowing outside, in the Alps).

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sun's valentine 2007

sun'svalentine 2007, originally uploaded by ellengwallace.

This came out of nowhere and 10 minutes later the sky is gray gray gray. But what a valentine from nature while it lasted! It was only when I looked at the image here that I realized how much it resembles my company logo, www.zidao.com. Nature imitating art: I'll have to let the designer know!

Happy Valentine's Day to you all!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

hmmm, imperfect blogger

Blogger has an upgrade I finally got around to using, but there seems to be a little problem when I send landscape-shape photos from flickr. Bear with me while I work out why, but not tonight!

bewitching hour: first light

bewitching hour: first light

I love that first bright streak that hits the sky in the morning - blackness to blueness and then suddenly, these splendid bits of color!

sunrise b Feb 11 207

sunriseb 110207, originally uploaded by ellengwallace.

Bolder and bolder, comes the sun on a wintry morning - snow is on its way.


Swiss Alps moon setting 110207

I was so enchanted by the reds and oranges of the sunrise that I nearly missed the violet light show in the other direction, and this pale moon trying to slip away quietly, like the shy guest at a raucous party.

Back to the desk, but first the Vatican and the weather

The sunrise and moonset this morning were spectacular, and I'm blogging three of those photos here from flickr. And then it began to snow, making for a peaceful quiet kind of indoors Sunday morning. I'm pleased to have one of those, a rare day. I'm nearly recovered from an exhausting but exhilarating half-week at Lift07, a conference in Geneva, Switzerland on the impact of technology on our lives, attended by 550 people. I'll be posting interviews all week on GenevaLunch, but briefly here are some of the people and ideas who left me with much to reflect on:

  • The chair of the board of Wikipedia, Florence Debouard, explained how the encyclopedia works and many in the audience realized how little we knew about it. She shook the crowd up by saying that the foundation, for that's what it is, has only enough money to function for another three months. Life without wikipedia? And they operate in 250 languages, no small feat.
  • Sugata Mitra recounted the extraordinary story of the hole-in-the-wall computer program in India and said he is now trying to set up a laboratory to take it a step further.
  • Natah Eagle, research scientist at MIT, told us that 80% of the population of Kenya is now walking under GPSR and that Africa is the fastest-growing mobile phone market in the world, which gave us pause. Love the photo on his program's web site.
  • Sister Judith of the Vatican talked about online communities, and I had to get my head around thinking of the Catholic church in those terms. She wanted to play with the New York Yankees when she was growing up.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Best ad of 2007

I have Vasta, a flickr buddy, to thank for sending me to see what he thinks is the best ad of the year so far, and I agree absolutely. Love it! I even wanted to see what the product was, for a change. You really have to hand it to them, he-he.

Drunk driving in the air

It's cold, it's winter and the pilot had to get up early. He probably thought no one would notice his swerve marks in the sky.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

The straits of February

It's here again, one of the more worrisome days of the year. February 1 surprises me every year. I think it should still be January, a month that starts slowly and some of us never quite get up to speed as the month progresses.

In fact, almost everyone I know is completely awash in work, household chores and the other things that don't qualify as making life worth living.

My problem with the start of February is linked to my childhood. It arrived with a lot of odd things that you were supposed to remember and pay attention to. One of them was the old groundhog business - will he pop his head out of his hole or won't he? Now we have to worry if anyone has mentioned global warming to him.

And I was never very sure what groundhogs looked like. In Iowa, we had gophers and chipmunks and squirrels and they all seemed related. Did they live underground when they weren't digging trenches under the lawn or flying around in treetops? I still don't know.

Then there was St. Blaise, who has gone out of fashion, I think, but early in February we'd trudge in through the cold damp Iowa streets and into the classroom where wool mittens steamed and cooked on radiators - and someone would make us bundle up and march out again. We walked over to the nearby church and filed in, first thing in the morning, to get two candles crossed against our throats and pray to St. Blaise, the patron saint of, hmm, saint of? At this point I would get worried again. Why would you have a saint to protect you from sore throats, tonsillitis and strep? He didn't get a very interesting job on the saintly ladder, it seemed to me. He was also not good at it. My throat acted as a kind of sink to every bug going around. I thought he needed better tools than long white candles.

February was something that came between Christmas and kite-flying, a March ritual. Teachers expected you to pay attention in school. Pencils were sharpened and resharpened, but February did not seem to go any faster.

The straits of February were a place where you sailed slowly. Meanwhile, down in New Orleans, that wild place, they got to dress up and go crazy.

We had sleds but not skis. We had St. Blaise, but not Mardi Gras. We had plenty of time for dreaming about where we might go when we grew up. Chicago sounded pretty good.